At a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) today, the judge refused to order any relaxation in the conditions under which a number of foreign citizens are being held while the government attempts to arrange their deportation. The men were previously held without charge at Belmarsh Prison and elsewhere under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, but were released under restrictive "Control Orders" following a Law Lords ruling in their favour, then re-arrested under immigration legislation following the London bombings. the Home Office wishes to deport the men to their home countries, where they would be at risk of torture.
Today's ruling means that the men will remain under control orders, house arrest and detention until their individual hearings - probably in April or May. This is in spite of an earlier SIAC ruling setting a deadline in February for the government to provide a long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding from Algeria promising that the men would not be tortured if returned there. Even if a MoU were to be obtained, most human rights organisations support the men's lawyers in saying that it wouldn't be worth the paper it is written on and should not be accepted by a British court. So it is profoundly worrying that SIAC has chosen to accept the expiry of its own deadline without challenging the men's continued detention.
Some of the men were not brought to the court for their hearing. But the detainees present in court were deeply upset by the ruling. Those who could all stood up and left the court together while the judge was still speaking. Mahmoud Abu Rideh - one of the few detainees who can be named - shouted "there is no justice in this Court". One of the men has no arms, one is in a wheel chair and some of the others have limps. Another detainee, who was not in court, is approaching his 40th day without food.